July 19, 2019

CA man sentenced for identity thefts of area residents

Man had opened fraudulent bank accounts with stolen info

A federal judge on March 19, 2019, sentenced a California man for stealing identities and using them to open accounts at the Birmingham-based BBVA Compass Bank, as well as using them for access device fraud against residents of Hickory, North Carolina, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.

In two cases, U.S. District Judge Madeline H. Haikala sentenced Eduardo Fernando Villanueva Aranguena, 32, of Reseda, Calif., to a combined sentence of 50 months in prison for aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. Aranguena also was ordered to pay $89,447.31 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

“Stealing someone’s identity takes more than just their money,” Town said. “It robs them of their privacy and sense of security. Identity thieves take note: we will find you and send you on a lengthy and involuntary tour of the federal prison system.”

“A stolen identity is a powerful cloak of anonymity for criminals and terrorists and a danger to national security and private citizens alike,” Sharp said. “I particularly want to express my thanks and appreciation to the agents, both here in Alabama and North Carolina, who worked to bring Aranguena to justice.”

According to a plea agreement filed in the case from the Western District of North Carolina, Aranguena obtained access to the online accounts of more than 10 individuals. Those individuals resided in the Hickory. While in California, Aranguena reset account passwords, added email addresses to the accounts and changed call-forwarding options.

Aranguena used the information obtained from these compromised accounts to then compromise numerous individuals’ email accounts, where he obtained personally identifiable information. Using this information, Aranguena opened an account or accounts in those individuals’ names. Aranguena used the fraudulently established accounts to transfer money, set up electronic bill pay, as well as to make purchases, apply for credit cards, and make hotel reservations.

Aranguena pled guilty in October 2018. Aranguena had been charged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in March 2018. He was subsequently charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina in August 2018. This case was ultimately transferred to the Northern District of Alabama after the defendant indicated his intention to plead guilty to the charges.

FBI’s Birmingham and Charlotte Field Offices investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Keim prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Central District of California and the Western District of North Carolina assisted in the investigation.

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